Alice Walker, an African American author and activist born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1944 (p. 69). Walker was like most African Americans in her time raised by hard-working underpaid parents, this is reflected in her writing. Alice Walker and her now removed husband were the first interracial couple in Mississippi. Once a poet, Walker worked with other influential authors including Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Everyday Use tells the reader about the life experiences and struggles of heritage and acceptance through the eyes of African Americans.
Sociology books do not explore the relationship of Americanized African American heritage vs. that of those that never left the motherland. Kate Chopin was apart of the revolutionary African American era, which is not prevalent today. This cultural aspect is reflected in her story Everyday Use when her character fails to see the family heritage symbolized in varies items in her house. You can relate to the story no matter what your nationality because everyone has culture and heritage of some sort. This story is very engaging, and the reader is able to see many points of view.
Everyday Use is centered on the homecoming of Dee. Anticipating her arrival, mother and her youngest daughter Maggie “wait for her in the front yard” which for them is an extension of the living room (p.69, 1). Maggie is intimidated by her sister and is very nervous about the home coming of her more assertive sister. While the mother is waiting she has a vision of her and Dee being reunited in the same way that “a child who has made it is confronted, as a surprise by her mother and father who are backstage” (p.70, 3). She is knocked back to reality when she realized that she could never, unlike her daughter “look a white man in the eye” (p.70, 6). Maggie is nervous about the whole ordeal and when Dee finally arrives she “attempts to make a dash for the house,” but her mother held her by her side (p.72, 19).
When Dee and her boyfriend get out of the car, they greet Mother and Maggie in Arabic “Asalamalakin” meaning peace be with you (pg.72, 22). Dee advised her mother and sister of her name change, which symbolizes the death her “slave name” and the rebirth of a more culturally aware woman (p.70, 4). Dee takes pictures of her surroundings, and begins to see the items of “everyday use” as cultural decoration for her house. Eventually she asked her mother if she could have the old quilts (p. 75, 55). She told her mother that she wanted to hang them, but her mother has already promised the quilts to Maggie when she got married. Dee did not get the quilts that she felt Maggie would not appreciate. She left the house advising her loved ones to explore their heritage, and to Maggie “make something of [herself]” (p. 76. 80). .
In the short story “Everyday Use” the main conflict is over which daughter will get the quilt. This is not just an ordinary quilt; it has been in the family for years. The quilt was made from “pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear, and “she did all the stitching by hand” (p.75, 60). Dee wanted the quilts so that she could hang them up, but her mother had already promised the quilts to her younger sister Maggie. The quilt is a symbol of the mother’s love and acceptance of her child and the value that is placed on the relationship. In the story there are two daughters, Dee is very intelligent, and went off to college and has become successful. Her mother is proud of her and often brags on her accomplishments. Maggie on the other hand was shy and simple.
She was burned as a child and has scars on her arms and legs. She lives with her mother, and is very nervous about Dee coming home. The quilt is a symbol of the families’ heritage in Dee’s eyes, but most importantly it is a symbol of materialism. The use of the phrase “everyday use calls attention to the two daughter’s different views of the quilt and other family heirlooms. Dee wanted the quilt to take home and protect it, where as Maggie would, “put them on the bed and in five years they’d be rags (p. 75, 66). Dee acts superior to her family, she believes that her education has been eye opening and she is living and seeing life through open eyes. She pities her mother an sister for “choosing” to live the simple life. What Dee has failed to realize it that her mother and sister have a deeper connection to heritage because they understand their own personal heritage and not just the overall heritage of a group of people.
Courtney from Study Moose
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